Explaining Southern California's economy

3 reasons LA is getting crushed by rising gasoline prices

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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A man pumps gas into his vehicle at a gas station in Monterey Park, Los Angeles County. Gas prices have dipped somewhat, but was the run-up due to market manipulations?

Los Angelenos have been suffering at the gas pump over the past week. Prices spiked by more than 50 cents, with the average cost of a gallon of regular zooming closer to $5 than $4. Following a fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery in August, L.A. drivers had already gotten used to a new normal, with gas stuck above $4. But last week, in some parts of the area, gas stations were posting prices closer to $6.

In response, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) fired off her second letter to the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, insisting that the dramatic price increase couldn't be blamed on market forces — a basic imbalance of supply and demand — and was instead due to Tesoro, a major supplier of California's unique blend of gas, getting caught in a "short squeeze" that placed the company at the mercy of traders who were more than willing to use a 97-cent-per-gallon hike in the wholesale gas market to victimize consumers.

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